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Gaston Leroux

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Gaston Leroux is remembered today for the novel The Phantom of the Opera and not much else. In his own time, however, he was a celebrated journalist and an international adventurer, and one of the most popular authors of mysteries and dark, occult-related thrillers in the entire world, as well as a flamboyant gambler. It was a life that might easily have come out of a novel, had it not all been true. Born on May 6, 1868, Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux grew up in a life of relative comfort, developing a love of sailing and swimming, and discovering a serious interest in literature during his childhood. He wrote poetry for his own enjoyment, and was a top student who was seemingly headed for a career as a lawyer. Even as he began studying for that profession, however, Leroux had started writing short fiction and poems for publication. By the time Leroux earned his law degree and was beginning his practice, he was looking toward a career as a writer. During this period, he inherited a substantial sum of money from his father at age 21, and managed to squander most of it before he was 23 on fine wine and cuisine, as well as on gambling. Leroux never overcame his passion for those indulgences, or the socializing that went with them. By that time, he'd recognized the legal profession for the personal dead-end that it represented, personally and financially, and turned to writing as a means of sustaining his lavish lifestyle. Leroux became a drama critic for L'Echo de Paris, which had previously published his poetry, and soon turned to covering criminal trials, where his training as an attorney made him uniquely qualified as a reporter. His work soon moved him to more prominent newspapers and into the field of serious investigative journalism; his own exploits, which included sneaking into jails in disguise to interview prisoners, soon rivaled the attraction of his stories. Writing for the Paris newspaper Le Matin, Leroux was among the earliest modern celebrity journalists, his name on a story guaranteeing the sales of an issue. Soon, he had his own international beat, crossing Europe, Asia, and Africa, often anonymously or in outright disguise, reporting on wars around the world and such events as the Turkish slaughter of Armenians, strife in the Middle East, and the Ruso-Japanese War. He also took a hand in the exposure of the scandal surrounding Captain Alfred Dreyfuss. Even when he failed to achieve his desired goal, as when Leroux sneaked in to interview the British statesman Joseph Chamberlain during the Boer War, only to be ejected, he wrote a full-length piece entitled, "How I Failed to See Chamberlain." The latter was considered one of the more effective humorous and self-effacing serious newspaper articles of its time, and a model for the genre. Leroux began writing fiction professionally with the start of the 20th century. His first novel, The Seeking of the Morning Treasures, based on the life and supposed legacy of the bandit Cartouche, appeared in 1903 as a serialized work in Le Matin, and created a major public sensation in Paris. Leroux's first major critical success came in 1907 when he published The Mystery of the Yellow Room, which introduced the character of reporter/sleuth Joseph Rouletabille. In its time, this novel was considered the best -- if not necessarily the first -- example of a logical detective story in which the murder is committed in a sealed room, a mystery subgenre that was later the purview of such celebrated authors as John Dickson Carr. It was followed a year later by The Perfume of the Lady in Black and six more subsequent sequels. He was able to give up journalism after The Mystery of the Yellow Room, though he retained a certain topicality in his books, most notably in The Haunted Chair, in which he satirized the Academie Francais and its intellectual pretensions. Leroux's personal life was nearly as colorful as his fiction. He remained married to his first wife until soon after the turn of th

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No Score Yet Le parfum de la dame en noir
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No Score Yet Perfume of the Lady In Black
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13% Il Fantasma dell'Opera (The Phantom of the Opera)
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